Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Obama avoids the silly delusions of oil executives and the Canadian government

After months (years actually) of incessant delusional messaging from the oil industry and its political puppets about how expanding carbon polluting activities (production, pipelines, ports) won’t accelerate global warming, Obama’s speech today was much needed. In addition to directing the EPA to reduce carbon pollution from existing coal plants, he also said that Keystone XL won’t be approved if it leads to increased greenhouse gas emissions.

Of course, he still is not quite asking the right question. Were he to ask “how do we decrease emissions here and abroad?” the obvious answer is “by doing everything we can to prevent new production facilities and delivery infrastructure here and abroad.”

If his questions stay in the industry's frame “will Keystone XL (or anything else) increase carbon pollution?” the oil industry will always have a fighting chance by claiming “no, because we will increase them by other means; so you might as well approve this.”

In other words, “you might as well approve this planet destroying infrastructure because if you don’t we will get rich destroying the planet by developing similar infrastructure elsewhere, and they will get the short-term, planet-destroying jobs instead of you.”

Although the logic of destruction is easily exposed, it is difficult when industry has so many resources to control and frame the messaging. I explain this with hopefully some helpful metaphors (liking wiping out the cod stocks on the Grand Banks) in my testimony before the US Congress in April and before some European Parliamentarians in May with James Hansen.

Today it was nice to see someone with power say something different from the industry delusion. It was not perfect. But it was so much better than what we hear from our Canadian government.


  1. When two are in love, opposing their wedding will not erase their love. Our love with oil cannot stop by opposing an Alberta-Texas wedding ring. Why not approve the wedding and move on to fighting oil consumption, so that the divorce comes more quickly?

  2. The Pricewaterhouse Coopers 2012 Low Carbon Economy Index says: The only way to avoid the pessimistic (climate change)scenarios will be radical transformations in the ways the global economy currently functions: rapid uptake of renewable energy, sharp falls in fossil fuel use... This sggest s need for nuch more ambition and urgency on climate change policy, at both the national and international level. Either way, business-as-usual is not an option.

    Kudos to Obama, let's hope he is succesful in driving change.

    Pop, why build more infrastructure and then strive to render it obsolete? The goal should be to stop the pipeline and divert that investment into renewable technology .and

    1. I don't want to build more fossil-fuel infrastructure. I just don't see how the focus on opposing investors to invest in these infrastructure helps promoting a stronger climate policy. Was the BC carbon tax the result of an opposition to a project? Are the California and Quebec cap-and-trade system the result of demonstration against against pipeline? The best way to discourage investors to invest in these pipeline is to show them that the market for their product will shrink. Otherwise, this approach to climate policy is very similar to prohibition of alcohol: not a successful path to sobriety.